Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Monday, February 18, 2019

Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale urges political organizing among young people

Seale spoke about his past, uniqueness of the Black Panthers

Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale urges political organizing among young people

Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale speaks in MGC 2-5 on Feb. 5, 2019. 

Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale spoke to AU students Tuesday night in a wide-ranging speech that spanned the history of the Black Panthers and argued for an electoral strategy to combat racism in the United States.

“I want to stop racists in the government,” Seale said at the event. “But I’m not gonna do it with no shotguns and pistols. I want to do it by taking their electoral seats, controlling the sheriff departments.”

Back on AU’s campus for the first time in 14 years, Seale commented on his long history with AU, having spoken here three times while the Black Panthers were active.

In an interview before the event, Seale stressed the historical and present importance of political control. Noting his work in the War on Poverty office in California, Seale described how he came to realize that with only 55 black people in elected political office in 1965, they were unable to help their communities.

“We need a political organization that’s getting more people duly elected to political office,” Seale said. 


He added that this realization led him to begin tutoring organizations that would eventually connect him with Huey Newton and spark the creation of the Black Panthers.

Seale’s current tour of colleges is related to the 2016 release of his book, “Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers,” although his speech centered around the party’s creation. Seale repeatedly noted that the organization’s main goals were economic and political, arguing that black power is impossible without political power.

The Black Panthers’ promoted the furthering of economic and civil rights for African-Americans but was careful to avoid racial animosity, Seale said. Seale recalled how a young man in a meeting once stood up and yelled, “White man is the devil!” In response, Seale told him to seek out the Nation of Islam instead.

“All my white left radical brothers and Chicano brothers supported us,” Seale added. 

Freshman Rachel Bagley said she was surprised by the different side of the Panthers she saw Tuesday night.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said. “The media always portrayed the Panthers as violent, but he emphasized how they would always accept arrest.”

As Seale described how the Panthers would recite legal definitions and Supreme Court decisions to police officers, the audience at the event asked that Seale be allowed to speak past his allotted time.

Bagley said she was impressed when Seale implored young people to get involved with their communities. Seale left students with one final piece advice: to participate in the electoral process and vote. 

“Don’t tell me voting isn’t important, because they wouldn’t be trying to repress it if it weren’t,” he said. 

aweinsten@theeagleonline.com 


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